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Representation and Women in HR Tech

The first half of the first day was dedicated to the Women in HR Technology conference. First of all, I greatly appreciate the fact that the role of women in technology was highlighted – not just from an end-user perspective, but from the leadership in creating and driving the innovation of the technology. I also appreciated seeing so many men attending sessions. Highlighting women doesn’t mean exclusion of men – it means raising everyone’s awareness, and it takes all of us to be more inclusive.

The sessions were good – smart, thought-provoking, data-driven, focused, actionable. I was sad I couldn’t attend all of them based on the Twitter stream I read. As I sat listening to the opening and closing keynotes, as well as some of the sessions, I was stuck by how the topics were intertwined by cause and effect.

Rita Mitjans, the Chief Diversity Officer at ADP, shared data highlighting the importance of diversity for innovation and success in a business. She also shared that while woman and people of color are entering the workforce at decent numbers, they are not advancing in the workforce. Later in the day, Jenny Dearborn, EVP, Human Resources and Global Head of Talent, Leadership & Learning at SAP, shared data around the skills gaps in tech, highlighting the challenges of filling roles in technology. Perhaps the solution is right in front of us.internet of women

Think about it – we know bias is a real thing in hiring. It’s also a real thing in promoting employees, and this problem perpetuates itself in businesses because promotion is more about visibility than ability. Yet within businesses, women tend to be less visible – they are called upon to do fewer presentations to the C-Suite, they are talked down in meetings, they sit in the background rather than at the head of the table. These small actions add up to real consequences. Earning potential drops. Women leave the corporate world. The talent pipeline dries up. And Jenny Dearborn has to do keynotes about the challenges of filling tech roles in Silicon Valley.

This made me think about the importance of representation. If there were more women in tech leadership, there would be more women in tech. Period.

A personal story:

When I was picking a college to attend, I targeted one that would allow me to be a physics/music double major. I assure you – there are not many. A visit to the University of Denver convinced me they were a good fit. The Physics Department had respected scientists, the music program was top notch (a little too focused on classical opera singing, but that was fine), and I liked the student to teacher ratio. After enrolling, I downgraded the music to a minor just for sanity’s sake, but loved being able to do both. Freshman and sophomore years were challenging but great – I had terrific classmates in my physics classes. Each of us had different strengths in thinking through problems, so we complemented and learned from each other. But most of those classmates were either chemistry or pre-med majors and the first two years of physics for them were just prerequisites. For me, it was my future.

Flashforward to junior year. I was the ONLY physics major at DU. That meant it was me and professor in all my advanced classes. And all of my professors were men – not just in my physics classes, but also in my advanced math classes. On the surface, that’s not that big of a deal. After all, a lot of professors are men. But I never once had a mentor in math and science who was a woman. I lost my support group of fellow students. I faced professors who had been doing these classes for years and didn’t know how to interact with a single female student in class. They insisted on leaving the door open for all classes, regardless of how loud it was outside the classroom. I understood why – but it impacted my learning. Halfway through my junior year, I opted to change my major, and graduated with a major in history, and minors in physics and music.  

Would I have stayed in physics if there had been more representation of women? Maybe, maybe not. Intro to Complex Variable was hard, yo. I do know that it shook my confidence right at the time when I needed to believe in myself the most. Now, there are several female astrophysicists and other scientists represented on television, talking about science and making it cool to be smart AND a girl. I love them for that. I watch them and cheer them. And I make sure I tell girls about them and encourage them to love science and technology.

I tell this story because I believe in representation. I believe it impacts a company’s success. I believe it builds strong talent pipelines. I believe it builds strong, confident women who refuse to take a lower salary because they should just be grateful they got the job. I believe it continues to help women realize they should never ever apologize for their success, nor should they be considered rare and magical when they show up at a conference and share their knowledge like the badasses they are.

So thank you, HR Tech Conference, for giving women in HR technology the visibility they deserve. We’ve always been there. Now it’s time you see us.

 

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2018 in Conference Posts, culture, Uncategorized

 

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It’s the week of #HRTechConf, y’all!!!!

This week, a whole bunch of people are descending upon Las Vegas for the 2018 HR Technology Conference. It’s a remarkably large conference that explores all aspects of how technology impacts business and people. You might think it’s just about product demos (and those will be there), but there’s so much more.

One thing I’m particularly excited about is the continued exploration about the intersection of human bias and artificial intelligence (in whatever way you want to to define it). Technology is a product of its creators, and its creators sometimes make horrible decisions. We are at an important crossroads – will we be able to use technology to enhance our human interactions or will we use it to avoid them?

I’ll be sharing my observations from the Expo Floor, the sessions, and all the interactions I’ll have with all the HR practitioner end users who are struggling to make sense of how to make technology work FOR them in the workplace.

Follow me on Twitter at @mfaulkner43 or all the people tweeting on the #HRTechConf hashtag this week. I’ll also be blogging from the conference, along with a group of incredibly talented and smart bloggers posting to the conference blog site.

Is there something you want to learn more about? Send me a DM and I’ll try to check it out!

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2018 in Conference Posts

 

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My first #HRTechConf

You guys, I FINALLY GET TO GO!!!!!

Here’s the deal – in the past, I’ve either worked for companies that were way too big to justify sending an L&OD person to HR Tech or they were way too small to justify sending a non-HRIS person to. Or else I was speaking at a conference that just always happened to be the same week (I’m looking at you, WISHRM).

But this year, the stars aligned I get to go to the conference. And even better, I get to work with the blogger group. In return for my conference pass, I am asked to attend the sessions as an end-user, sharing what I see and my experiences as an HR practitioner in the wild. It’s like HR Tech Nerd Christmas.

I’m super stoked.

(And super dated. Who says stoked anymore?)

Looking through the agenda, I can honestly say I am overwhelmed by the amazing options available. I’ll definitely be starting my conference on Tuesday with the Women in HR Technology track.  From there, I’m trying to decide between bouncing around a number of different tracks, or just planting myself in every single AI session led by John Sumser, who is doing some amazing research and analysis in this area.

Image result for It christmas

I was looking for a something that looked like HR Tech Nerd Christmas. I found this instead. 

As an HR leader about to embark on the quest of implementing a new HCM, I’m really going to learn more about the experience that others have had as they go down this path – what did they learn? what did they wish they had known before they got started? what are the questions I should be asking the vendors along the way? who in the business was their biggest ally? I think that sometimes the HR experience in HR tech gets left out, so my goal is to share my perspective and the perspectives of other HR practitioners who are on various places on the tech savvy spectrum.

I’ll be live tweeting sessions, so follow me on Twitter at @mfaulkner43 and follow the #HRTechConf hashtag all week, September 11-14. If you’re on the fence about going, there’s help available. And use the promo code SURVIVE18 for $300 off your registration (who doesn’t love a sale?).

It’s not every day you get an opportunity to attend a conference that speaks to a multitude of your interests. I can’t wait to learn from the sessions and the speakers. And I can’t wait to share what I learned with anyone who wants to read about it.

I’ll keep you posted!

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Posted by on August 20, 2018 in Conference Posts, Uncategorized

 

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The way we win matters

What’s that? ANOTHER movie reference in a blog post? Hell yes. Buckle up, buttercup. Let’s do this.

It’s no secret that I love science fiction (and science fantasy, where I firmly place Star Wars, but that’s a discussion for another time). I started reading Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison at a very young age. Which explains a lot, really. What I appreciate about the genre is that it is such a mirror of who we are as a society – and who we want to be. Some sci-fi is post-apocalyptic and depressing, some is unnaturally cheerful and optimistic. (You can probably guess what kind I tend to watch.) All of it acts as a social commentary for the time in which it was made.

One story I experienced first as a movie and then as a book is Ender’s Game. Regardless of what you think of the book’s author, the story and world building is brilliant and engaging. Years ago, Earth was invaded by an alien species and barely survived. Since then, society has been obsessed with preparing for the next attack, training children to be the leaders of the battle because their brains can process the multitude of data faster.

Ender, so-called because he is a third child in a society that limits most families to two, is unique among his peers. He is the perfect combination of aggression and compassion, believing that the best way to defeat his enemy is to love them, because only then do you understand them. When confronted by bullies at his school, he gravely injures the toughest boy – an apparent over-reaction to the situation. When questioned why later, he replies that he wasn’t fighting to win that battle – he was fighting to win all future battles, too. (Seriously, go watch the movie and read the book – so good.)JALWS Letterhead I

One line in particular has stuck with me. [SPOILERS AHEAD] Near the end of the story, Ender and his unit have been undergoing simulation after simulation to defeat the Formics (insect-like aliens). In the final simulation, they risk nearly everything to defeat the entire race of Formics. Ender sacrifices thousands of (he thinks) simulated lives to achieve victory. Following the simulation, the adults cheer…it turns out, the simulation was the real battle. Colonel Graff (played by Harrison Ford) explains they didn’t tell Ender because they didn’t want him to hesitate…that they needed him to do what was necessary. Graff insists Ender will be remembered a hero. “We won,” Graff proclaims. “That’s all the matters.” Ender fires back, “No. The way we win matters.

This line says so much. It embodies so much of our humanity…or lack of it.

How many times have leaders claimed winning is the only option? How many organizations sacrifice values, integrity, dignity because they tell themselves the ends justify the means? Win at all costs. No holds barred. You have to play the game to win the game.

How many times do people regret that approach? In the long term, I hope it’s all of them. Because you give up something vital when you tell yourself that it doesn’t matter how you won. In the short term, it might seem like the smart play, but ultimately, history judges us all. It exposes the lies we tell ourselves and lays bare our mistakes.

Right now, American society is at a crossroads. We have an administration that values “winning” and loyalty over all else. We have a majority party in Congress that is willing to “win” no matter what the cost. We have organizations that are choosing to align themselves with a president who has been accused of sexual assault, and then turn around and speak about the dangers of #metoo. We live in a world where the number of  impressions and Twitter followers appear to be more important than values and critical thinking.

Is this what winning looks like?

I’d like to believe we’ll right this ship; that we’ll realize that attention isn’t the same as regard. That small “victories” are meaningless if we lose the larger battle. That sacrificing what we believe for the sake of a photo op means more than a slight PR hit. The decisions we make moving forward as leaders – as human beings – say more about us than short term gains. Are we willing to admit that sometimes the right thing to do IS the hard thing to do? Do we have the courage to turn down what looks good in favor of what IS good? Are we willing to speak up when our leaders can’t? Or won’t?

I hope so.

THE WAY WE WIN MATTERS.

 

 

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The power, and danger, of being liked

There’s a scene in Rush in which the F1 drivers are arguing whether or not they should race the Japan Grand Prix. The weather is questionable…but it’s the last race of the season and the points for the championship are very close. Niki Lauda (played brilliantly by Daniel Bruhl) calls an all-driver meeting to discuss the cancellation of the race. His justifications are reasonable and logical – it’s not worth the danger to continue in the race. James Hunt (played equally brilliantly by Chris Hemsworth) steps in and sways the crowd, arguing that Niki only wants to cancel the race because it will clinch the championship for him. He uses emotion and charisma against logic and fact. The vote is taken – the race is on.

As Hunt walks out of the room, he leans over to Lauda and says: “You know, Niki, every once and a while, it does help if people like you.”


James Hunt is right – it does help if people like you. You’re more likely to get hired if you’re likeable. You make friends more easily. Likeable sales people tend to have higher close rates. Hell, some people argue that Hillary would have won, if only she were more likeable. (And we can unpack THAT little statement another time.) In general, likeable people seem to go through life with a little extra verve and a little less friction.

Being likeable means being relatable to people. If someone feels like they can go and have a beer with their leader or coworker, it humanizes the person, highlighting commonality and empathy. It’s an important trait to cultivate if you’re trying to influence and lead. The grumpy, no nonsense boss of the past only gets so far. Same with the person who is always right and lets you know it. Look around your organization at who gets promoted – is it the charismatic leader that motivates people, or the sharply intelligent person who rubs folks the wrong way now and then in pursuit of truth?


If the above paragraph made you think, “Wait…there are a lot of charismatic douchebags who got promoted at my company and they can’t do shit…” then congratulations! You’ve found the danger of being liked. Too often, being liked is valued over being smart or thoughtful. Being liked can be addictive. People crave it and will sacrifice anything – logic, values, integrity, partnerships – as long as they keep that likeability. The need to be liked can lead to awful business decisions and really, really crappy leadership. Managers who want to be liked have a really hard time telling their employees that they aren’t doing a good job…because what if the employees don’t like that manager anymore???

I’ve seen too many teams struggle with artificial harmony because they think debate means someone doesn’t like them, and the thought of not being liked is TERRIFYING. Fear of not being liked too often keeps mouths shut or breeds defensiveness during serious conversations. It causes people to use gossip as currency and undermines relationships. Chasing likeability will hurt you in the long run – especially if it’s obvious that you’re trying too hard (see aforementioned charismatic douchebags).


So what to do? Be the jerk who is sure you’re always right? Be the charmer everyone loves even though deep down, you aren’t always making the best choice?

I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. If people “like” you, it usually means that they trust you on some level. Personally, I’d rather be trusted than liked. I’d rather people think I have character and competence over popularity. In truth, I suspect I’m more like Niki Lauda than James Hunt. But I recognize the power of likeability and want to spend its value wisely.

You get some grace when making mistakes because people trust you’ll do right by them. If you’re always going by “gut instinct” and never consider logic and facts in your decision-making, you’re apt to lose that grace fairly quickly. On the flip side, people who rely entirely on logic and facts are typically seen as cold or non-empathetic. Despite the fact they’re often right, people don’t trust it because they aren’t seeing the human side of the decision-making. Tempering logic with likeability and balancing charisma with critical thinking can go a long way.

Next time someone gives you feedback that you need to be more “likeable,” consider what that means. Do you need to be more open to feedback? Do you need to be more approachable? Do you need to build more relationships? These are all good things to work on. But if they use “likeable” to mean you need to be more outgoing and smile more, feel free to keep on keeping on.

After all, James Hunt only won one F1 championship. Niki Lauda won three.


[Author’s note: Ironically, even Lauda liked Hunt. Despite the way their rivalry was presented in the film, Hunt and Lauda were good friends. Lauda said Hunt was one of the very few he liked, a smaller number of people he respected and the only person he had envied.] 

[Author’s note, Part 2: I really like that movie.]

 

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It’s been a tough week…

Lots happened this week.

Many people are reeling.

Here’s a picture of a kitten in a car.

Take care of yourselves, everyone.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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The “problem” is not the problem

I apologize to those of you out there looking for a return to the leadership content I often post here. This post is fairly HR-centric…although there are definitely leadership underpinnings, because doesn’t everything have leadership underpinnings? That’s just a fancy way of saying I want to share some thoughts that may or may not pertain to you. Also, the title comes from a quote from Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean: “The problem isn’t the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.”

So here we go.


The online HR community has been growing, which is a good thing. In the early days, there was a handful of HR pros out on social media, blogging, tweeting, doing their thing. That number has grown exponentially, resulting in a wider network for people to connect with others who are doing the same work and facing the same problems. There are more bloggers, more tweeters, more voices out in the universe sharing their thoughts. Not everyone agrees with everyone else, and I think that’s a good thing. Healthy conflict drives innovation. Let’s do it.

Then there was a hashtag.

When the #HRTribe hashtag first appeared, some people loved it, some people were indifferent, and some people were really bothered by it. In the early days, though, it wasn’t really talked about openly. It was sort of a “meh, whatever” situation. Hashtags come and go, no skin off anyone’s nose.

A little time goes by and some folks begin to voice their discomfort with the term. The reasons are varied – the idea of the need for any label at all is a bit off-putting; there’s an “us vs them” exclusionary mentality growing; the word “tribe” itself holds a specific meaning and is being misused in this context. Like I said…a lot of variety in those reasons.

For the record, I’m not a huge fan of the term. I’m hovering somewhere between uncomfortable with the word “tribe” and “why do you need a label” in my reaction to it. I’m not militant about it. I just don’t use the hashtag. Early on in the growth of it, I suggested that if people really wanted to make it “inclusive,” maybe they should stop tagging specific folks on Twitter because it was sending a different message than was intended. That seemed to be good. I moved on, once gain – not using the hashtag, but not getting all up in arms about it, either.

But then hrmemes (a satirical instagram/twitter account, by the way – sort of like The Onion) posted a fairly funny image about the #HRTribe stuff:

(Seriously – this is funny.)

The resulting discussion on Facebook was…enlightening. Suddenly, people who had stayed quiet about the issue started speaking out, and frankly, I was surprised at the number of folks who shared they had felt excluded because of the hashtag. That they felt like there was a wall put up between them and those who would use it. And that they were somewhat afraid to speak out because they didn’t want to “stir the pot.”

Huh.

Look, I’m okay with people wanting to feel like they are part of a community. If a hashtag helps you feel connected, great. Godspeed. #blessed. Whatever.

But there are things I’ve seen and heard that bother me. And it’s primarily around how those who are pro-hashtag are responding to those who have said they don’t like it.

This is what I said on the Facebook discussion, and I stand by it:

Here’s an observation from seeing the discussion on HR Tribe usage across all social media platforms. I keep seeing those who like the term dismiss the experiences or views of those who dislike the term. When specific examples of exclusion are given, they tend to be dismissed because the intent isn’t exclusionary. 

I get that.

And yet, here we are, a bunch of HR professionals who are supposed to listen to people’s stories and meet them where they are in their experiences…telling them they’re wrong. 

I’m bothered by that.

Regardless of how you feel about the use of the term, it’s the reaction of those around it that is starting to rub me wrong. Replace “I felt excluded” with “I felt harassed” and suddenly it takes on a different flavor, doesn’t it? 

No…HR Tribe is NOT an earth-shattering thing that we should lose our collective shit over. But maybe the way we’re talking about it should be.

Notice the focus – it’s not on the hashtag. It’s on the way we are talking about the hashtag.

I am disappointed that there are HR professionals dismissing the concerns of their peers in a manner that is disrespectful. I am bothered that some are HR professionals trying to convince someone who has shared their discomfort that it’s the other person’s fault that they misread the intention and that if they just tried it they would like it. I am seriously rolling my eyes when I see HR professionals reacting passive aggressively or rudely when someone has shared that they feel excluded because of the term.

How people are talking about this reflects how they would handle any controversial topic in the workplace. We are supposed to be a group of people that employees can go to and share their concerns. If someone came to you and said, “Ted from Accounting is making me feel uncomfortable,” should the response be, “Oh, Ted doesn’t mean anything by it. He’s just a friendly guy. You just misunderstood what he was doing”? I would hope not. And PLEASE don’t come at me and argue that a meme isn’t the same as harassment – yeah, I know. But it’s not a giant leap in logic, either.

Frankly, I’m shocked at the amount of passion and emotion around this thing. Some people have really doubled-down on their viewpoint. It’s a freaking hashtag. Yet it apparently has triggered some discussions that need to happen.

To be clear, there have been a number of people who love the hashtag who have said, “I get what you’re saying. Thanks for sharing. I’m still going to use it, but I will be more aware of how it makes people feel.” I love that. There are people listening, reflecting, and then making a conscious choice for a specific reason. There are also a number of people who have reached out and said, “I am glad someone said it. The tribe thing has bothered me for a long time but I didn’t want to say anything.” I love that, too. It means people want to have the conversation.

If we are going to be a profession that claims we can be a safe space for employees to bring forward their #metoo moments, or anything else that breaks the law, then we need to prove it. As Dominique Rodgers said during a Twitter conversation: If a group of kind, educated professionals can’t have this slightly awkward conversation, our nation has no hope for the much bigger awkward conversations that need to happen. Please don’t retreat. We value all perspectives. Promise. 

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2018 in Authenticity, culture, Uncategorized

 

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